We’re celebrating Easter in August this year with Easter Sunday, a comedy film directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. This film stars stand-up comedian Jo Koy as stand-up comedian Joe Valencia. He’s a struggling Filipino-American actor who attends a gathering of his dysfunctional family on Easter. Much like Eminem’s rapper role in 8 Mile, this is Jo Koy’s opportunity to portray a character heavily based on himself in a feature film. Unfortunately, the end result is a bloated, unrealistic comedy that always wants to be funny but rarely is.
Many stand-up comedians have gone on to have successful acting careers, such as Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Silverman. Koy is a hilarious stand-up comic, but if this movie was the launching pad for his acting career, it’s not a particularly strong one. Much of Koy’s stand-up surrounds his Filipino family, finding the humor in the cultural novelties of Asian people. This movie touches on a lot of that, with many jokes and scenes surrounding what it is like to be in a Filipino family. The screenplay from Ken Cheng and Kate Angelo pokes fun at moms and aunts at war with each other and their love of karaoke.
Some of this may strike a chord with many Filipino-American families, but while the humor works phenomenally on a stand-up stage, it never translates well in this film. The movie never gives you enough of the laughs you would expect from a comedy, with only a few moments that might make you chuckle. For the most part, this is a largely unfunny film with weak writing. Parts of this movie feels like an opportunity for Koy to workshop some new stand-up ideas. There’s even a scene where Joe gets onstage and does stand-up comedy, but the audience in the movie laughs much louder than the audience in the theater you’ll see Easter Sunday at.
You can see how personal these family dynamics are for Koy and why he wanted to be part of a project that can represent Filipinos in a mainstream comedy movie. There are many nuggets for audiences to enjoy, such as their love of Manny Pacquiao and a creepy statuette of Jesus Christ. However, the film tends to recycle its jokes, most of which only half-land — if at all. The characters can also feel like caricatures with humor that does not work as well as it should.
One of Easter Sunday‘s most pressing issues is how everything feels inauthentic. After a few scenes at the family reunion, the movie throws in a crime subplot that feels entirely out of place. It gets worse and worse when you realize that every event in this film happens by coincidence. The odds of everything happening the way they do are so low that it’s impossible to buy into the story, with characters that are connected in the most ludicrous ways imaginable. The movie shoehorns in a car chase where Joe suddenly drives like a highly trained stunt driver, never utilizing the opportunity for a humorous situation where a single dad tries and fails to escape his pursuers.
The film also features a romance subplot that might send synchronized eyes rolling to the back of every audience member’s skull. Easter Sunday is a film where everything feels either written by a screenwriter or improvised by a comedian. Nothing is organic and the only entertainment value to be had is in the bits of representation and the occasional humor tossed in from other famous comedians who look like they filmed all of their scenes in a day. While Jo Koy remains a phenomenal comedian, this movie is far from his best work, and you’ll get many more laughs by watching one of his Netflix stand-up specials.
SCORE: 3 – BAD
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 3 equates to “Bad.” Due to significant issues, this media feels like a chore to take in.
Disclosure: Critic attended a press screening for ComingSoon’s Easter Sunday review.